12 Signs of Uncontrolled Diabetes

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Cindy Kuzma on July 24, 2021
  • hand of scientist holding vial of blood
    12 Signs of Uncontrolled Diabetes
    Blood tests tell you and your doctor when your glucose levels are too high. But signs of uncontrolled diabetes can appear all over your body. High blood glucose can damage nerves, blood vessels, and organs, resulting in a wide array of symptoms. Talk with your doctor if you spot any of them, so you can stay in control of your diabetes and improve your quality of life.
  • toilet paper in bathroom
    1. Your bowels and bladder don’t work properly.
    Nerve damage can make it hard to tell when you need to use the bathroom, even when your bladder is full. As a result, you may develop frequent bladder infections. Constipation and diarrhea occur if nerves to the small intestine sustain damage. And your stomach may lose the ability to move food through your digestive system, causing vomiting and bloating.
  • Hearing test
    2. You lose your hearing.
    Sound travels a complex path from the outside world to your brain. Many small blood vessels and nerves in your ear play a role in transmission. High blood glucose can damage these vessels and nerves, making hearing loss twice as common in people with diabetes.
  • senior man brushing teeth in bathroom
    3. Your gums bleed.
    Besides bleeding, you may notice your gums pull back and form pockets around your teeth. This is a sign of periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease. Without treatment, you may begin to lose teeth. And in a vicious cycle, gum infections can make blood glucose harder to control.
  • close up of senior man's face and mouth
    4. Your mouth is dry or sore.
    High blood glucose robs your mouth of moisture. You may develop pain, sores, infections, and cavities as a result. Prevent oral problems linked to diabetes by brushing properly and visiting your dentist every six months. Also, quit smoking and clean dentures regularly, if you have them.
  • Eyeglasses
    5. Your vision changes.
    You may notice you have trouble reading, or you see rings around lights at nighttime. Fluctuations occur in how clearly you can see at near and distance. Your vision may blur, and dark spots or flashing lights may appear in your field of view. Also, it may take longer for your eyes to adjust when you move from dark places into bright light.
  • woman sitting down and itching arm
    6. Your skin cracks, itches, or changes.
    Your body retains less moisture when you have high blood glucose, leaving your skin dry and itchy. Cracks allow bacteria to penetrate the skin and cause infections that heal slowly. Other signs may erupt on your skin, including dark velvety patches, blisters, rashes, scales, or hard pea-sized lumps. Some areas may turn stiff, waxy, cool, or hairless.
  • doctor examining patient's foot at appointment
    7. Your hands and feet tingle or feel numb.
    Nerve damage disrupts signals between your extremities and your brain. You may feel a pins-and-needles sensation, but not heat, cold, pain, or even pressure on your feet when walking. The muscles in your legs and feet may weaken, leaving you unsteady.
  • senior woman holding painful hand
    8. Or, your hands and feet frequently hurt.
    In other cases, frayed nerves send scrambled messages, triggering sensations out of sync with external stimuli. Even a light blanket on your feet may cause you to ache, especially at night. Also, you may experience extreme hot or cold sensations, or feel like you’re wearing gloves and socks when you’re not.
  • spasm
    9. Your legs cramp or ache.
    Circulation problems can cause your calves, thighs, or buttocks to hurt when you’re walking or doing other physical activities. This pain may decrease with rest. Still, report it to your doctor. You may need to take extra steps to protect your blood vessels.
  • Couples Feet in Bed
    10. Sex becomes difficult.
    Intimate parts of your body aren’t immune from nerve damage. Men may have trouble getting or maintaining an erection. Women may experience vaginal dryness or notice they don’t feel aroused or have orgasms as easily. However, these changes don’t diminish sexual desire.
  • sweating woman on couch
    11. You sweat differently.
    Some diabetics sweat more frequently, especially at night or while they’re eating. Others stop sweating entirely, even in extreme heat. Check your feet—if the skin there is very dry, your sweat glands probably aren’t functioning properly.
  • senior man with hand on head outdoors
    12. You feel dizzy and lightheaded.
    You may faint when you stand up too quickly. Your heart may beat too fast. If these symptoms develop suddenly or come with shortness of breath, chest pain, slurred speech, or vision loss, get help immediately. Blood flow to your heart or brain may have slowed or stopped.
12 Signs of Uncontrolled Diabetes

About The Author

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  7. Skin Complications. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/skin-complications.html?print=t
  8. Diabetes and Hearing Loss. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/seniors/diabetes-and-hearing-loss.ht...
  9. Diabetes and Oral Health Problems. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/diabetes-and...
  10. Periodontal (Gum) Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/oralhealth/Topics/GumDiseases/PeriodontalGumDisease.htm
  11. Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/peripheralneuropathy/detail_peripheralneuropathy.htm
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 24
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